FARMINGTON — The Kirtland Central cross-country teams are peaking at the right time.
At Friday's Kirtland Ridge Run at Kirtland Elementary School, Kashon Harrison toppled the boys competition for his eighth first-place finish in eight attempts this season, while KC eighth grader Michaela Hawkins finished first on the girls side. Both races were 5Ks.
Harrison's and Hawkins' efforts propelled the Broncos and Lady Broncos to first- and second-place finishes, respectively, at Friday's meet.
KC occupied the seventh, eighth and ninth spots of Friday's girls race, as eighth graders Autumn Harrison and Chynitta Yazzie took seventh and ninth, while LaKyla Yazzie squeezed in between them at eighth.
KC coach Lenny Esson said his eighth graders have fresh legs after competing in the middle school season for just a couple of months, and they appear primed to help the Lady Broncos capture a District 1-5A title on Friday in Gallup.
"These eighth graders trained off and on with us during the summer, so we knew they were capable of competing at this level," Esson said. "Their middle school races were half the distance, so they were able to work on speed. So we're able to bring them along slowly."
Coach Sampson Sage's Piedra Vista girls squad was able to supplant Hawkins and the Lady Broncos as the top team at the Ridge Run, thanks to a second-place finish by Paris Chee, a fourth-place finish by Kendall Williams and a sixth-place finish by Katherine Broten.
Even though the Lady Panthers won, Sage said coming home with first-place honors was not his top priority.
"We wanted to execute two key areas of the race," Sage said. "It was more of a dress rehearsal for next Friday, so we wanted to be aggressive from the start and to begin initiating a longer push to the finish, rather than just, 'Oh, I can see the finish line, let me start kicking.' Because those are the two elements that are going to be needed next Friday."
The District 1-6A meet, which PV will compete in, starts at 4 p.m. Friday at Cleveland High School.
At the Ridge Run, Navajo Prep's girls earned fourth, even without top runner Shannus Becenti, who did not race. Bloomfield's girls took sixth, Farmington got eighth and Aztec fell to last place out of the 13 scoring schools.
After Harrison and KC in the boys race, Prep took third behind top-10 runs from Mathis Quintana (ninth) and Tyrese Begay (10th).
PV, paced by 12th-place Benjamin VanOtteson, snagged fifth overall, just ahead of sixth-place Farmington.
Bloomfield was 10th, and Aztec was 12th in the 14-team race.
Shiprock squads fare well in district tuneup
One week before district, the Chieftains and Lady Chieftains both had their best outings of the season, placing second and third, respectively, at the Valley Invitational on Friday in Albuquerque.
Chieftain Stadium will be the site of next week's District 1-4A cross-country meet, where Shiprock will compete against Navajo Prep, Wingate and Thoreau. After running side-by-side with some stellar competition on Friday, both Shiprock teams feel like they're ready for next week.
Coached by Brian Paniagua and led as always by senior Aaron Gould, the Shiprock boys placed second out of eight schools on Friday. Gould finished second individually, with a time of 16:17 in the 5K. For the second straight week, Paniagua said he felt like Gould's teammates stepped up.
"They finally started to close the gaps that we've had all season long," Paniagua said. "This was by far our best performance, yet the guys and I know we can do better. It's been a long while since I've had this many guys run in the 16's and 17's, so I'm extremely excited."
Aaron Lee (16:44) represented Shiprock by snagging fifth place, and Justin Yazzie (16:51) took sixth.
The Lady Chieftains earned third out of six scoring teams, finishing only behind 6A's Rio Rancho (first place) and La Cueva.
Alice Kinlichee's Lady Chieftains posted their best pack time of the season at one hour and 16 minutes, and they did it without one of their best two runners, Destiny Rockwell, who was out nursing an injury.
"It was a solid effort from the team. The girls even ran with Rio Rancho's girls for a bit, right before the two-mile point, when the Rio Rancho girls took off," Kinlichee said. "I'm pretty excited about it. We're improving."
Khadija Lapahie took ninth as Shiprock's top finisher. T'yana Harry earned 12th.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.